Groups of people historically considered outside the caste system of India. In traditional Hindu society, they were ‘untouchable’ or ritually impure because they carried out unpleasant tasks such as cleaning toilets or sweeping streets. Mahātma Gandhi used the term Harijan, meaning ‘children of God’, for the various Dalit groups. The lowly social and economic status of Dalits – officially termed ‘Scheduled Castes and Tribes’ – has improved since the Indian constitution abolished longstanding discrimination against the ‘untouchables’ but many still suffer prejudice.

« Back to Glossary Index
Please consider the environment before printing